The Orb: Moonbuilding 2703 AD

A decade after they delivered Okie Dokie It’s the Orb on Kompakt on…Kompakt, Alex Paterson and Thomas Fehlmann return to the stalwart Cologne label with an album bearing a less sportive title and it sounds like serious sci-fi business. The standard edition consists of four tracks, each one between nine and 15 minutes in length.

Not one of them is humorously titled “Captain Korma” or “Komplikation,” unless “God’s Mirrorball” triggers a recollection of the first Tad album. Unlike Okie Dokie, this is all new, not an amalgamation of tweaked, previously released tracks and new material. Lest this be seen as the Orb’s “most mature work to date,” within seconds of the opener, a mild-mannered voice from a colorful documentary about Sumerian gods intones, “If you believe in evil, then you probably need a whack on the back of the neck with a big fucking stick.” After four-and-a-half minutes of ambience that intensifies in gradual fashion, a fluid, sturdy beat and light chime-like accents enter to set the tone for the remainder of the 50-minute program. Both “God’s Mirrorball” and “Moon Scapes” contain several sections that tug and drift with a calm but steady flow (one of Fehlmann’s favorite terms). The latter is heavier and more propulsive than the former, trucking dub techno filled with thrumming and thwacking drums and sections highlighted by electric keyboard fillips and string-sample flickers. The relatively brief “Lunar Caves” would be ideally suited for one of Kompakt’s restful Pop Ambient compilations if it weren’t for some radio interference and a couple intensely rhythmic components.

The album’s vinyl edition contains an explicit tribute to J Dilla, but Moonbuilding 2703 AD itself – the finale – acknowledges the genius producer as well, most obviously through the bit of Donald Byrd composition “Think Twice,” once covered by Dilla, that pokes through. As with the album’s first two cuts, it incorporates several movements, yet it’s hip-hop much more than techno and never fades into the background like a fusty Mo’ Wax scrap.

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Posted by on July 1, 2015 in Spotlight on


ARCHIVED ALBUM: Dinah Washington: Dinah Jams

Recorded at the start of Dinah Washington’s climb to fame, 1954’s Dinah Jams was taped live in front of a studio audience in Los Angeles. While Washington is in top form throughout, effortlessly working her powerful, blues-based voice on both ballads and swingers, the cast of star soloists almost steals the show.

In addition to drummer Max Roach, trumpeter Clifford Brown, and other members of Brown and Roach’s band at the time – tenor saxophonist Harold Land, pianist Richie Powell, and bassist George Morrow – trumpeters Maynard Ferguson and Clark Terry, alto saxophonist Herb Geller, and pianist Junior Mance also contribute to the session. Along with extended jams like “Lover Come Back to Me,” “You Go to My Head,” and “I’ll Remember April” – all including a round of solos – there are shorter ballad numbers such as “There Is No Greater Love” and “No More,” the last of which features excellent muted, obbligato work by Brown. Other solo highlights include Land’s fine tenor solo on “Darn That Dream” and Geller’s alto statement on the disc’s standout Washington vocal, “Crazy.” And even though she’s in the midst of these stellar soloists, Washington expertly works her supple voice throughout to remain the star attraction, even matching the insane, high-note solo blasts trumpeter Ferguson expectedly delivers.

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Posted by on June 30, 2015 in Archive Album Focus


Desaparecidos: Payola

Two albums in 13 years is hardly the mark of a high-functioning punk rock unit, but Desaparecidos is a Conor Oberst joint. The prolific Nebraskan hasn’t exactly been resting on his laurels, with nearly a dozen full-length outings seeing the light of day (under his own name, Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk, etc.) since the release of the band’s 2002 debut, Read Music/Speak Spanish.

After reuniting for a series of shows in 2012, Desaparecidos issued a quartet of singles, all of which make an appearance on the spectacular Payola, a nervy collection of retro socio-political punk rock anthems shot through with enough pure ’70s power pop acumen to ignite every lighter in the Nippon Budokan. Louder and more focused than its predecessor, though no less raw and impacting, Payola houses a laundry list of grievances, from the 1% vs. the occupy movement (“Left Is Right”) and Arizona anti-immigration advocate and Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio (“MariKKKopa”), to senseless mall shootings (“Von Maur Massacre) and white collar crime (“Golden Parachutes”). The latter cut is one of three to feature a guest spot (Brooklyn punk rockers the So So Glos and Cursive’s Tim Kasher join the non-pity party on “Slacktivist” and “City on the Hill,” respectively), and it serves up one of the album’s strongest melodic moments, with a fevered Oberst sharing the mike with Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace and the band tearing it up “White Riot”-era Clash style.

Politically charged punk rock can be an exhausting and overtly self-righteous affair in the wrong hands, but Oberst and company temper their outrage with unadulterated melodic might, resulting in that rare protest album that rewards both the condemners and the condemned.

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Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Spotlight on


Comic Recommendation: Howard The Duck Complete Collection Vol. 1

  • Writer: Steve Gerber
  • Artists: Val Mayerik, Gene Colan, and others

Steve Gerber was one of the great idiosyncratic creators of the Bronze Age, and forty years on, nobody has yet approached the sheer unhingedness of his Howard The Duck, a series that took an ill-tempered talking duck and built him into one of the Marvel Universe’s biggest stars, while also turning every convention of comic book storytelling upside-down.

Over the twenty-odd issues collected in this volume, Howard wrestles with existential crises, battles threats like The Space Turnip and Hellcow, runs for President, gets committed to a mental ward, becomes possessed by an evil spirit, is transformed into a human, and gets shoved aside from his own comic in favor of a written essay from Gerber about missing deadlines and the troubles of the comic industry.

None of it makes a lick of sense, but it’s incredibly compelling nonetheless, a comic experience that defies comparison, comprehension, and logical analysis.

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Posted by on June 27, 2015 in Comic Recommendation


Movie Review: Minions

MOVIE REVIEW: Jim Schembri takes a look at Minions, Inside Out and Scientology and The Prison of Belief

The origin story of those little yellow jibberish-spouting helpers who populate the Despicable Me franchise is a hilarious, ridiculously entertaining, joyfully infectious affair. Reshaping the evolution of life of earth to position the Minions as an essential part of the pecking order, they trot across history in search of evil masters to serve, stopping in 1968 to answer the call of uber-baddie Scarlett Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock).

Headlined by three main minions – Kevin, Bob and Stuart – the film is a non-stop barrage of visual gags, chiefly lampooning the British as tea-drinking buffoons with bad teeth.

Co-directed by Pierre Coffin (who did the first two films) and Kyle Balda, the film is crammed with period detail and pop references, features a portrayal of the Queen that leaves the liberties taken in A Royal Night Out in the dust, and is, hands down, the most fun animated feature we’ve had so far this year (which is saying a lot). It’s a cheesy, cheeky knockout, and one of the best blendings of kid and adult humour we’ve seen since Spongebob.

Review by Paul Elliott

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Posted by on June 27, 2015 in Movies / TV


Dr. Yen Lo: Days With Dr. Yen Lo

Ka made an indelible impression on rap fans with his 2012 self-produced Grief Pedigree album and Roc Marciano team ups, but The Night’s Gambit revealed some chinks in his armour as far as the limitations of his productions style, as it failed to enthral musically in the same way as the previous album (with the exception of the masterful opening track).

Enter Preservation, Mos Def‘s former DJ and the man behind the sound 1200 BC EP. With another skilled ear at the helm, Ka is free to concentrate on weaving his unique musings on the unseen underbelly of New York City life not considered dramatic nor glamorous enough for most to report on. From the majestic confessions of ‘Day 13′ (‘didn’t have milk, listening to Juice Crew’) to the John Carpenter infused ‘Day 0,’ Preservation provides the canvas for Ka to rise to the occasion as the most affecting and compelling MC of 2015.

The mind boggles as to what the Metal Clergy project with Roc Marcy might deliver…

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Posted by on June 26, 2015 in Spotlight on


The Units: Digital Stimulation

Digital Stimulation was the 1980 début full-length by the Units, a San Francisco-based performance art rock group who were retroactively co-credited with inventing the genre known as synth-punk along with bands such as the Screamers and Suicide.

The album was one of the first releases on San Francisco-based 415 Records, a label which also released music by bands like Romeo Void and Translator, and the album arrived after the Units had spent a few years gigging around the California punk and new wave club scene, opening for bands ranging from the Dead Kennedys to the Go-Go’s. the Units featured a revolving cast of members over the years, but this album was recorded by core members Rachel Webber and Scott Ryser, both of whom sang and played synthesizers, along with powerhouse drummer Brad Saunders. The band’s members have acknowledged that the Units wouldn’t exist without Devo, and it’s easy to see some similarities, particularly the stiff, adenoidal vocals and lyrics touching on socio-political paranoia. From a musical standpoint, though, the Units seemed far more interested in exploring the sonic capabilities of their synthesizers, filling out their expansive sound with a wide array of electronic techniques and tricks played with prog rock virtuosity.

Unlike most synth-pop bands, there doesn’t seem to be a hint of sequencing or programming on this recording; everything is intensely played live, and the drumming is crashing and dynamic, similar to the fantastic drumming of the Buzzcocks John Maher, but with more of a free-form experimental approach. There’s nothing “robotic” about this music at all; it’s far too alive, too human. Not for nothing does the band state “we are the ones, ones who got the bodies” on the sex-scientific “Warm Moving Bodies,” which seems to reference the Normal’s synth-punk landmark “Warm Leatherette.” The band reveals a cheeky sense of humor on the wacky “Mission” (also known as “The Mission Is Bitchin'”), while half-time prog-waltz “Bugboy” is more sadistic, with lyrics about a child who takes pleasure in torturing insects. Instrumental “Tight Fit” features vibraphone along with the intensely pounded-out drums and keyboards, resulting in a unique new wave/jazz hybrid that works surprisingly well. “Cowboy” is another ambitious instrumental which starts out calm and glacial, erupting halfway through into a vibrant digital chase scene. Subsequent releases would find the Units moving into a more conventional, danceclub-friendly direction, eventually leading to a short-lived tenure on Epic which would only amount to a medium-rotation video on MTV and two unreleased albums produced by Bill Nelson.

The group’s later, more commercialized material is still worthy of interest to fans of ’80s electronic music and new wave, but Digital Stimulation remains a fiery, exciting document of an innovative group who redefined the potential of synthesizers in a rock band format.

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Posted by on June 26, 2015 in Spotlight on


Movie Review: Spy

Spy - - Gmail

Director: Paul Feig

My movie choice this week was Spy a comedy with a wide array of stars in the cast; Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham,Jude Law and Miranda Hart, are a few of these. These comical – undercover – agents played by them had a great response in the showing we went to…a variety of fun rolled into a Secret Agent set was a belly laughing fun watch.

Despite the language being a little colourful. Yet again, the delightfully sharp but funny Melissa delivered a most entertaining couple of hours of wit and expressions complementing her cast companions with  personality and humour. Susan cooper runs the secret missions from her desk at headquarters,on this mission for all concerned she needs to go into the field to put her training to the test for the first time in 10 Years. Her knowledge and common sense kicks in to action to try to stop the evil Rayna played by Rose Bryne from selling her stolen nuclear weapon to the highest bidder in her greed to prove herself in the criminal world. Susan is put into the field as low profile but cant wait to have a more active role in the spy network to prove herself to her fellow Agents.

I really recommend this movie for it was so well cast for the story line. A must see this week.

Review by Maria Elliott

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Posted by on June 26, 2015 in Movies / TV


Movie Review: Mad Max – Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Considering the wave of terrible 90’s Scifi sequels/remakes we’ve had fired our way in the past few years (Terminator, Robocop, Total Recall etc.) Fury Road’s success has been more than a pleasant surprise.

It takes a lot of very 80’s dystopian post-apocalyptic sensibilities and puts it in modern context. The relevant storytelling, characterization and heavy play on social themes make it a compelling tale but it’s the bare-bones, relentlessly unforgiving visuals that make it a thrilling ride through and through.

There’s more to the world of Mad Max than sand dunes and angry people with automobiles though, with very little screen time Miller manages to convey a very elaborate society full of warrior tribes, caste systems and cultural/religious customs that are intriguing if not visually iconic.

Let’s also not forget the cast of characters representing a variety of minorities without feeling like forced tokens. A phenomenal performance by Charlize Theron breathes badassery into Furiosa and the manic Nux played by Hoult! It seems the best way to bring back the “strong silent type” hero is to in fact keep him silent. (who would’ve guessed?) Hardy skims by as Max with stern looks, grunts and single syllable words and for that we love him.

At the end of the day Fury Road is both a nonsensical, visceral action packed adventure about a bunch of rebels fighting the system but also an intelligent character study with a dab of social commentary. Some of these folks are larger than life (Max) others victims/villains turned heroes (Furiosa, Breeders, Nux) which ever you appreciate more you’re both cheering and enamored by the spectacle.

Review by Paul Elliott

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Posted by on June 25, 2015 in Movies / TV


ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Kacey Musgraves: Pageant Material

There is little room for subtlety in music’s mainstream. If you don’t have a big voice backed by a big beat with big production values, chances of getting noticed are small. Throw in the current climate in country music that overwhelmingly favours men, and Kacey Musgraves’ new album Pageant Material becomes nothing short of a musical miracle.

Without ever raising her voice or wavering from politeness, Musgraves takes on the current state of country music in “Good Ol’ Boys Club” and stands her ground on any number of issues. What Pageant Material has over her breakthrough Same Trailer Different Park album is its slightly wider variety of styles and slightly more direct lyrics.

Musgraves’ greatest strength, though, is in her storytelling. The way she captures bucolic life in “This Town” is remarkably even-handed and in the title track, she sings “It ain’t that I don’t care about world peace, but I don’t see how I can fix it in a swimsuit on a stage,” before confessing, “I ain’t exactly Miss Congenial.”

It’s that kind of logic that makes Musgraves a delight and Pageant Material an undeniable winner.

Review by Paul Elliott

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Posted by on June 25, 2015 in Album Of The Week


Doomsquad: Pageantry Suite

Last winter, Doomsquad released their début LP, a cosmic offering rich with trippy synth, thick bass lines and ghostly vocals murmuring in the background. On their latest EP, the now Toronto-based siblings Trevor, Jaclyn and Allie Blumas continue their exploration of world music and dance, this time bringing the vocals to the forefront. The result is hypnotizing.

Opener Two-Way Mirror sounds like the Talking Heads circa Remain In Light (think African funk guitar and wooden percussion), while Apocalypso shimmers with trance-inducing repetition. Alien-sounding melodies floating in the background complement Trevor’s vocals, which are sharp and sung-shouted like a less frenetic David Byrne. It’s a promising new direction. If the upcoming full-length is anything like this EP, there’s a lot to be excited about.

Review by Paul Elliott

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Posted by on June 24, 2015 in Spotlight on


ARCHIVED ALBUM: Judy Garland: Judy at Carnegie Hall

The readily obtainable available edition of Garland’s seminal Judy at Carnegie Hall recording is a completely fresh experience even for those intimately familiar with previous versions. By accessing tapes which have not been used on any other release – including the pricey DCC gold disc – many sonic foibles which plagued the original have now been repaired. The overwhelming success of this album, which initially spent 95 weeks on the charts and garnered five Grammy Awards, makes it a prime candidate for a sonic overhaul. By reclaiming tapes that were once considered MIA, the sound is now notably more balanced. In addition, much of the fake applause has been thoughtfully removed, unveiling previously masked dramatic pacing and audience interplay between songs. But the highlight of the entire package is the return of “Alone Together” from the actual Carnegie Hall performance. The song had been replaced by a studio version on the 1989 CD reissue due to missing master tapes. Since then, those tapes have been put back into commission and provide the jaw-dropping sound on this delightful set.

There is a good reason that Garland historian Scott Schechter titled his specially-penned liner notes essay “Two Hours of POW!” With relentless verve, Garland takes on her entire musical catalogue with astonishing aplomb. There is little sign of the decades of self-abuse which had left her frail by the early ’60s. But what we are fortunate enough to have is the magic and youth of her voice. Especially poignant are “You Go to My Head,” “Just You, Just Me,” and her quintessential reading of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Judy at Carnegie Hall is far and away the finest live performance to be issued during her lifetime. The numerous improvements made on this currently available edition will no doubt serve her legacy well.

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Posted by on June 23, 2015 in Archive Album Focus


Algiers: Algiers

4 Real: Algiers Drop 'Algiers' On Unsuspecting Rock Scene - Vanguard Online

Politicism in rock is a busted flush. Charlotte Church and Paloma Faith are more likely to offer an opinion on the state of the world than their much ‘cooler’ counterparts in the world of ‘indie’. You voted in the election? Why bother, say The Horrors. While Ellie Goulding is talking out against homelessness in Hackney, Muse’s new concept album ‘Drones’ is being laughed at. It’s pretty much conspiracy-theory-lite but at least they’re trying. On the whole, today’s rock bands fill arenas and play festivals with songs about very little. A spoof Kasabian Twitter account is more political than the band’s lyrical output.

Algiers are a band that aren’t fu*king around. Their website is a head-spinning collage of political slogans and essays, musical influences and reading lists, a challenge to investigate further. In video for single ‘Black Eunuch’, the band resembles a meeting of some underground revolutionary group, clapping and hollering. The song is an excellent introduction to the band’s sound. Gospel backing vocals, knife-edge guitars and Franklin James Fisher’s soul man roar. It’s exhilarating and rocks like a mother-fu*ker.

Algiers are a band that have created their own world and language, an iconography for followers to invest in. Although worlds apart sonically, they remind me of Richey-era Manic Street Preachers. Confident, brash, inviting devotion, not caring about your ridicule, trying to Say Something. Where an early 90’s Manics fan might read ‘The Bell Jar’ and check out The Clash and The Smiths, an Algiers devotee might wonder what Suicide sound like or wonder what ‘The New Brutalism’ is about.

Algiers is not a flawless album. Some tracks struggle to differentiate themselves from others as the band go back to the gospel-no wave-punk well too many times. Fisher, like the Manic’s James Dean Bradfield, sometimes has to stretch words into awkward shapes to make them fit the music, thus making it harder to understand the lyrics.

I’m maybe just looking for faults. This is a terrific début album. Algiers are a cult looking to convert the masses. Algiers might not be the album you want in these troubled times but it is the one you deserve.

Review by Paul Elliott

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Posted by on June 22, 2015 in Spotlight on


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